CEO Blog: Patients are People First


Renown Health President and CEO Tony Slonim, MD, DrPH, explains the importance of honoring patients as real people.

During my fellowship in the intensive care unit, there was a popular teaching: Do not become emotionally involved with your patients. However, by truly engaging with those who walk in our doors — learning their background, interests, history, likes and dislikes — I learned to see people, not just patients.

During my time in the pediatric Intensive Care Unit, I learned there isn’t a more precious responsibility than caring for a critically ill child and their family. You hold the parents’ hands. You cry with them at the bedside. And to this day, I have parents who write to me and say, “Dr. Tony, you impacted our lives.”


So, I completed my training with a different perspective: If you fail to engage and get involved, you’re missing out. You learn amazing things when you allow yourself to get immersed in your work. We can’t imagine what people go through unless you’ve had a similar experience. About a month ago, I celebrated 15 years of being cancer-free. When you’re not healthy, it occupies your entire existence. When you’re healthy, it’s easy to take your heath for granted.

As clinicians, we’re traditionally expected to treat patients’ physical health. While that is certainly an important mission, one in which clinicians are privileged to experience, care providers can easily become so focused on the physical domain that we lose sight of a person’s total health, which includes the mind, body and spirit and the ability to frame a person outside of their illness. Those factors can have a huge impact on the quality of an individual’s life.

To help people get well, we need to focus on their total health. That’s why at Renown Health, we see people, not patients.

Dr. Anthony Slonim is an innovator and proven leader in healthcare on both the regional and national levels. During his notable career at major healthcare organizations and academic institutions, Dr. Slonim has developed a national profile as an expert in patient safety, accountable care, healthcare quality and innovative care delivery models focused on improving health within the community. For more Healthy Perspectives, follow Dr. Slonim on Twitter


  1. Wonderful insight shared! Excellence in intention and interaction with other individuals at any time, but especially during times of crisis no matter how big or small will make an impact. To engage in a genuine manner can have an effect on how patients and family heal, perceive care and may even effect how they see themselves. Not to mention as a fellow human, it is just the right thing to do ... comes natural.
  2. Dr. Tony; Thank you for writing such an important note. Maybe it hit home especially as former PICU nurse who spent 20 years caring for our youngest patients and their families. Many of those families are still a part of my life today. Maybe it is that I too am a cancer survivor recently celebrating 5 years cancer free. Sometimes you have to be the patient to truly understand the vulnerability that our patients experience. In this day of having an app for everything, staff have become so focused on the device in front of them that many times they are missing out on the best part of medicine, and that is connecting with the people they are caring for. Thank you for reminding everyone that we impact our patients' lives.
  3. Thumbs up on this one. As urgent care providers, we are front line of a fast-paced field that can sometimes feel impersonal to patients. It does not take much to engage, hug, share tears, and the benefits of this are amazing.
  4. Dr. Tony, I know what you mean. I am a Service Excellence Representative at Renown Rehab Hospital, and I am in constant contact with ALL my patients and their families. I get to know these people, I don't treat them as a patient, I treat them as if they were my long lost friend and we need to catch up on what we missed. I also have laughed, cried, or just sat there holding their hands and letting them cry on my shoulder. That's why I have been in the healthcare field since I was 14. I knew this was going to be my passion and I cannot see myself doing anything else but helping my "visitors."